Zodiac Killer Married 13-Year-Old, Book Claims

The late Earl Van Best Jr. was behind the killings, claims his son

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted May 14, 2014 6:53 AM CDT | Updated May 14, 2014 7:48 AM CDT

(Newser) – The late Earl Van Best Jr. was the Zodiac Killer, at least according to his own son. HarperCollins yesterday released a book by Gary L. Stewart that got a quick avalanche of press, due in part to the fact that the publisher managed to keep the lid on the book for a year. The Most Dangerous Animal of All is the result of Stewart's 12-year search for his biological father, a quest launched when his birth mother made contact with him in 2002. As NOLA.com reports, Jude Gilford married Best, then 27, when she was 13. The two fled San Francisco, and Gilford gave birth to Stewart in 1963; Best left him in a Baton Rouge apartment building when he was four weeks old. Best was ultimately jailed through July 1965 after facing charges of raping a minor and document and wire fraud. Gilford never spoke with him again (interestingly, she ended up marrying a San Francisco Police Department detective who worked on the Zodiac Killer case). The Zodiac Killer first struck in Northern California in 1968; Best died in 1984.

The 51-year-old Stewart tells People that the book is the result of some 500 interviews and holds what he sees as evidence of his father's guilt: a similarity between his father's fingerprints and one left at the crime scene; a comparison of his father's handwriting from his parents' marriage certificate with that of letters written by the killer that a handwriting expert found to be "virtually" the same; the victims' resemblance to Gilford. Further, many of the Zodiac Killer's letters were directed to Chronicle reporter Paul Avery, who had written critically of Best after he married the teen. But there's one thing Stewart hasn't been able to do: Compare his DNA to what the SFPD had among its evidence; he says he's unsuccessfully lobbied for such a comparison for a decade. A rep for the SFPD tells CNN the department had no knowledge of the book but will "certainly ... take a look at" it.

A police sketch of the Zodiac Killer.
A police sketch of the Zodiac Killer.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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